Adelphi University Commemorates the Triangle Fire and Brings Legendary Anti-Sweatshop Crusader to Campus on October 12, 2010

As the 100-year anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire of 1911 approaches, Adelphi University will commemorate the fire, which served as a catalyst for labor reform in the United States.

An event with legendary anti-sweatshop crusader and leading labor rights activist Charles Kernaghan will take place from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. in the Ruth S. Harley University Center, second floor. The event, which is free and open to the public, will also include an exciting theatre performance, video, and art exhibits.
Mr. Kernaghan is the director of the National Labor Committee (NLC), a nonprofit human rights organization that aims to protect the rights of workers and engages in fact-finding missions throughout the world to expose and document labor and human rights abuses; they then use this information to raise public awareness in an effort to change corporate policy. For more than 20 years, he has made it his life's work to promote and defend worker rights in the global economy and helped to place the issue of sweatshop abuses and child labor squarely on the national agenda. The NLC uses its extensive worker contacts to produce a steady stream of in-depth reports exposing corporate greed, miserable and abusive sweatshop conditions, grueling hours, and starvation wages which trap tens of millions of poor developing world workers producing goods for export to the United States.
He has travelled to Central America, China, Bangladesh, and Jordan, among others to document workplace abuses. Mr. Kernaghan is perhaps best known as the "man who made Kathie Lee cry"-for exposing the factory in Honduras where child workers were being abused while sewing her clothing line for Wal-Mart. The NLC has taken on some of the largest multinationals in the world, including Wal-Mart, Nike, Disney, GAP, Alcoa, Victoria's Secret, Major League Baseball, National Basketball Association, National Football League, and Sean Combs-and won.
He has taught at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and at the State University of New York's Harry Van Arsdale Labor College in New York City. He also was a day laborer himself, working as a furniture mover, cab driver, carpenter, and shop steward (Carpenters' Union Local 608) before his academic and labor rights career.
"Charles Kernaghan and his anti-sweatshop battle have been shaking up the apparel industry like nothing since the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire," observed a reporter for Women's Wear Daily, while the New York Times called Kernaghan "the labor movement's mouse that roared."
The Triangle Factory fire was the largest workplace disaster in the United States until the September 11 tragedy. The outrage over the senseless deaths of the young workers and immigrants sparked social protests that lead to stronger labor legislation, humane workplace regulations, and ultimately the New Deal reform.
Adelphi University's class of 2014 read, The Triangle Fire, by Leon Stein and has already engaged in discussion about the contemporary re-emergence of sweatshops in the United States and other parts of the world in their Freshman Seminar class. Mr. Stein brings to life that tragic fire in lower Manhattan at the Triangle Shirtwaist Company on March 25, 1911, which killed 146 people. This project was part of Adelphi's ongoing commemoration of this tragic event.
Many events are scheduled to have the public and the Adelphi University community participates in commemorating the Triangle Factory Fire through educational and artistic events. We will reflect upon the lessons of the fire and consider deeper questions of immigration, work conditions, and humanity.
This event is co-sponsored by the Labor and Education Fund, and Adelphi's College of Arts & Sciences, School of Business, Sociology Department, Levermore Global Scholars Program, Political Science Department, and the Gender Studies minor.
To learn more or if you have questions, contact Associate Professor Deborah Little, at (516) 877-4113 or little@adelphi.edu.

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